Fort Frye, Warren agree to continue sharing

BEVERLY – Visiting Warren Local Board of Education members agreed with their counterparts at Fort Frye’s regular meeting Thursday that the sharing of a superintendent and treasurer by the two districts should continue.

“I haven’t seen any drop off” in job performance, said Warren board member John Nichols, who attended the meeting at Beverly-Center Elementary School with Warren board President Bob Allen. “They’re taking care of the district as well as they did before.”

Fort Frye board President Johnna Zalmanek said she’s gotten inquiries from board members in other districts about how having Superintendent Tom Gibbs and Treasurer Melcie Wells serving both districts is working.

“It’s working out fabulous, but not just anybody could do it,” she said.

Gibbs and Wells worked together for four-and-a-half years at Warren before Wells became treasurer at both districts in January 2012. Gibbs took on his dual roles in May.

“I’m not sure that it would have worked for two total strangers in the same situation,” Nichols said.

Nichols said he’s heard people mention Gibbs hasn’t been at some Warren events, but he hasn’t heard complaints about the savings to the district. Fort Frye board member David White said that’s a necessary sacrifice for both districts.

“Their main job is to operate this district, and if they can’t make it to a function, so be it,” he said.

The arrangement saves Warren about $70,000 a year in salaries and Fort Frye approximately $87,000, since its previous treasurer had worked there longer and had a higher salary than Wells did at Warren.

Gibbs and Wells thanked the board members for their compliments and quickly turned the credit to the administrators and office staff with whom they work, as well as the boards for being supportive.

Allen said he’s willing to look at sharing additional services with Fort Frye or other districts.

Gibbs said the districts will have a joint training session on student learning objectives in February, and Fort Frye officials recently attended a Warren committee meeting about the new teacher evaluation system required by the state. The districts should look at more closely aligning certain policies and day-to-day operations to make the sharing of services even more efficient, he said.

No official action was taken on extending the contracts of Gibbs and Wells, which run through July 31. Fort Frye board members Lisa Perry and Charlie Schilling will attend Warren’s board meeting on Monday to discuss the matter.

In other business Thursday:

  • The Fort Frye board unanimously approved the purchase of electronic card-key readers for doors at all three elementary schools in the district and the high school for $22,471.

The move had been under consideration prior to the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Gibbs said.

“The recent news just kind of encouraged (the board) to go ahead and move forward a little more quickly,” he said.

Entrance doors are already locked at the schools, but key cards provide an extra layer of security because, unlike standard keys, an individual card can be deactivated if it is misplaced or stolen, Gibbs said.

  • The board unanimously approved getting quotes and seeking bids for seven capital projects, including upgrades to the high school gym and auditorium and the main entrance at Salem-Liberty Elementary School, installation of an automatic door at Beverly-Center and patching, sealing and painting all district parking lots and driveways. Gibbs said all the projects are expected to be done this year, except perhaps the replacement of the auditorium stage lighting.
  • At the board’s 2013 organizational meeting, held prior to the regular meeting, the board unanimously re-elected Zalmanek as president. Schilling was elected vice president over White by a 3-2 vote.